After a one hour bus ride, we reached the Shimao Stone City. In the bus, I learnt from Johnny that the Chinese word shi stands for stone while mao means high land. At the entrance, we were handed a brochure of the archaeological site, which stated that this was the largest Neolithic stone walled settlement in China, dating from 2300-1800 BC.
The local guide and our translator led us to the main site through a wood-built path snaking around the main site. As we were moving up, the wind was getting wilder and I was feeling the chill to the bone. The main site is kept open for visitors. It was an imperial complex in the centre, surrounded by one or two city walls. Shaped like a pyramid, the bottom of the structure is wider than the top, and it is over ten stories in height. Such a grand place could only be the residence of the city rulers. From this high platform, one could have an extensive view of the surrounding areas. If you come down, you will get into an oval shaped inner city area, which is again encircled by a crescent-shaped extension of the inner city. The layout of the stone-walled settlement indicated the principles of urban planning in ancient China. It also reveals that the stratification of people according to their accommodation in relation to the centre of the city has been going on since the birth of the concept of cities. Archaeologists found a large number of human skulls, particularly of women aged around twenty, buried near the walls. It shows that like many civilisations around world, the ritual of human sacrifice to build wall foundations was prevalent in this area while also giving an indication of the inferior status of suffered by women here. Instead of hiding this truth, the tour guide brought our attention to it, and I highly appreciated this. She might have wanted to show us how the Chinese society has progressed over centuries and reiterate the fact that Chinese women now live in a better and freer world. After a lot of selfies and group pictures, we again boarded the bus. But our wonderment refused to leave us. It requires a lot of planning and smart engineering to build such a vast city structure. From the site, we could also glean that there was a well-organised government and probably a well-developed social life in the Neolithic period in this part of China.